MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In the midst of a nationwide vaping epidemic, the state of Minnesota is taking e-cigarette giant JUUL to court.
"We are suing JUUL because they have deceived and mislead Minnesota consumers of all ages, created a public nuisance, and especially harmed our young people," said Attorney General Keith Ellison.
JUUL is accused of violating a number of Minnesota's consumer protection laws and marketing nicotine to children.
The suit was motivated by a recent study that found more than a quarter of Minnesota 11th graders vape regularly.
Hopkins High School senior Will Gitler was among the students who spoke out at the State Capitol. After vaping for about two years, he recently quit and is happy to see the state taking action.
"It's sending a message to other companies that we aren't going to let you advertise to our children or take advantage of a vulnerable market," said Gitler.
Minnetonka High School students Maddie Rausch and Austin Roberts are a part of an initiative at Minnetonka High School called "They Lied, We Know." The effort, funded by Cambria, calls out the tobacco industry. Their efforts got a big shout out by Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday.
"I love their slogan out there, 'They Lied and We Know It.' That's who this generation is," Walz said.
As the next generation grows up, high school parents hope this lawsuit sends a message and saves kids from being exposed to vaping.
"The kids are addicted because of the impact that JUUL-ing has had on our society," said Minnetonka parent Sarah Lien.
Minnesota is now the fourth state to sue JUUL. California, New York and North Carolina are also suing the company on similar grounds.
Attorney General Ellison says the lawsuit could approach the $6.5 billion won in the 1998 Big Tobacco settlement.
In response to the lawsuit, JUUL sent WCCO-TV the following statement:
While we have not yet reviewed the complaint, we remain focused on resetting the vapor category in the U.S. and earning the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes. As part of that process, we recently stopped accepting orders for our Mint JUULpods in the U.S., suspended all broadcast, print, and digital product advertising in the U.S. and are investing in scientific research to ensure the quality of our FDA Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) application and expanding our commitment to develop new technology to reduce youth use. Our customer base is the world's 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.
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